The City of Encinitas has a history of staunch resistance toward beer manufacturers looking to set up shop within its boundaries. It’s where prestigious brewer Jeff Bagby (who has roots in Encinitas) and his wife initially sought to set up his acclaimed brewpub, Bagby Beer Company before a property that was much more attractive than the idea of embarking on Encinitas’ difficult permitting process led them to select Oceanside instead. The move has paid off as Bagby Beer’s opening fell in line with an overall food-and-beverage renaissance in Oceanside that has included establishment of several other brewing interests in the years since. Meanwhile, Encinitas is one of only four municipalities (out of 18 in San Diego County) without a single brewery in a county awash with local beer. (There was brewpub called The Red Kettle that operated along then First Street in the early-nineties, but it was very short-lived.) That will change to an extent, however, as the city is on track to welcome multiple brewery-owned tasting rooms.
Culture Brewing Company has a 1,048-square-foot tasting room in the works. That spot is scheduled to open at 629 South Coast Highway on August 12. The smallish nature of that venue seems to have been key in getting approval from the City’s Planning Commission, which granted the Solana Beach-based business permit approval in January.
When approached by Point Loma-based Modern Times Beer about a vastly larger satellite project—a space capable of holding approximately 150 people at a time—the commission stiffened once more. So much so that Modern Times put out an email blast to its consumers asking them to come to a City meeting held last week to voice their support for the project and help sway the Planning Commission’s vote. A substantial number of fans attended, vocally going toe-to-toe with Encinitas residents opposing the project. In the end, it would seem that maneuver resulted in Modern Times gaining the razor-thin voting edge that will lead to the permit approval they so desperately coveted. Located at 470 South Coast Highway across from the iconic La Paloma Theatre, that venue is estimated to open next year.
Further north in Leucadia (which is within and under the jurisdiction of the City of Encinitas), Miramar-based Saint Archer Brewery aims to install a tasting room in a space between beer bar The Regal Seagull and Surfy Surfy surf shop. If approved, it will be the first satellite venue from the macro-beer interest, which was purchased by MillerCoors in 2015 after just over two years in business. The newest of the proposed brewery-owned ventures in Encinitas, it has yet to inspire as much concern from the City or its residents as Culture and Modern Times. Instead, the main opponents are from craft beer fans who eschew Big Beer and the recent string of craft acquisitions.
It would seem City officials take cues from their constituents when attempting to defend their community from beer manufacturers. There is a vocal percentage of Encinitas citizens who are concerned that their city, particularly the commercial stretch of Coast Highway in the downtown core, is over-saturated with alcohol-centric hospitality venues. That is a matter of opinion, but even if one shares that point of view, City government permitted those booze businesses in the first place, including a wine-making facility, Solterra Winery and Kitchen, not far from Saint Archer’s proposed location in Leucadia. If Encinitas’ portion of the 101 resembles Pacific Beach’s Garnett Avenue as the City and its people fear, it would seem that municipal government has no one but themselves to blame.
When Little Miss Brewing was putting its business plan, that road map was unlike those of other fermentation-based entrepreneurs in San Diego County. A brewery with a Type 23 license may apply for duplicate licenses to open additional retail venues, something numerous operations do via satellite tasting rooms. Little Miss owners Greg and Jade Malkin decided early on to make their satellites the workhorses of their business. At first, they weren’t even going to install a tasting room at their Miramar headquarters, instead saving that space exclusively for production. A number of obstacles and delays forced them to change their mind at the eleventh hour and construct a tasting room in Miramar during the week leading up to their debut last summer. But on Thursday, June 8 the first of their two work-in-progress satellites will debut at 3514 Adams Avenue in Normal Heights, transforming the company into what the Malkins envisioned when they decided to enter the San Diego brewing scene.
Little Miss’ branding revolves around fun, games…and World War II. It’s not the most natural pairing, but a visit to the Miramar tasting room is sort of like hitting up the USO; cinder blocks, munitions containers and military posters let you know where you are, but the overarching mood is one of jovial relaxation. The idea with each of the satellites is to assign them an individual thematic inspired by one of the US’ WWII Allies.
An upcoming tasting room in Ocean Beach will give a nod to France, while its Normal Heights predecessor will honor the United Kingdom. That thematic is driven home by a Union Jack flag painted on the ceiling, British wartime propaganda posters painted on the walls and an outdoor mural by local artist, Leroy Davis. Another local, Kelly Hutchison, will also have pinup paintings on display, bringing in a bit of ’40s-era Americana, while the spirit of the neighborhood will come in care of a giant picture of Winston Churchill dressed as a hipster.
The 1,000-square-foot Normal Heights space has a bar-top made from bullet casings giving way to a vintage cash register and 16 taps dispensing Little Miss beers. On the recreation front, the venue has board and card games, Jenga, dart boards and four televisions. It will be open from noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Saturdays from noon to midnight and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m. Sites have not been selected for future satellite tasting rooms, but the Malkins say the next Allied country they select will likely be the former Soviet Union.
After several years in operation, Kensington Brewing Company gained a name for itself last January when it opened its brewery and tasting room to the public. There was just one oddity—that tasting room is in Grantville versus the business’ namesake community. Owner Zack Knipe lives in Kensington and has wanted to set up shop there from the beginning, but was forced to compromise to bring his vision to fruition. But over the past year, he’s kept his eyes open for a space. One day, a sign went up in the iconic Kensington Video storefront and he pounced on it—along with a number of other suitors for that space. In the end, he won out and soon his brewery’s name will make sense. He knows he has big shoes to fill, supplanting a hometown business of nearly four decades, but thinks his goods have the goods to do right by Kensington and hopes his new venue becomes a hub for the community he harbors so much affinity for.
West Coaster: What factors made it difficult to setup shop in Kensington?
Zack Knipe: “Downtown” Kensington is an amazing place, but it just isn’t that big. Most of the businesses on the block have been operating for a very long time, so it limits the amount of real estate available for newcomers. Only a couple of opportunities to establish a tasting room on the block have come up over the past four years, and there was heavy competition for those locations. It was difficult! There were a lot of really good businesses competing for our new location, and we pushed very hard to make sure we got the opportunity this time.
WC: What’s so special about the Kensington community?
ZK: As part of my proposal to lease the Ken Video space, I wrote the owners a letter that talked about how I first found Kensington. I am from a small town in Northern California and came to San Diego to attend USD. Go Toreros! San Diego was such a big city to me that I always envisioned returning to NorCal. Part of my college coursework had me taking some cinema classes. One of the only places in the city to find foreign films or less mainstream films was Kensington Video. During my many trips out to the video store to pick up class materials, I explored the neighborhood and saw that it really has that small-town vibe in a big city. Long story short, being a part of a community like that means a lot to me. It has been where I wanted to raise my family and grow my business for a very long time. Sixteen years later, not only do we have the opportunity to be a local business, but also to setup in a space that first brought me here.
WC: How do you plan to convert this iconic space to fit your needs?
ZK: Our brewing operations will continue in our current facility in Grantville. We wanted to make sure we are able to have as much room as possible for the community to not only come in and enjoy a great beer, but host an event or community gathering. We will have a large amount of both bar and table seating, and we intend to be as kid-friendly as possible. The space also has a great audiovisual system we hope to use to show some of Ken Video’s classic collection. I don’t want to give everything away, but, aesthetically, we are aiming to have some historic Kensington elements blended with the Spanish and Craftsman-style architecture seen throughout the neighborhood.
WC: What’s the plan for the Grantville brewery?
ZK: We originally ended up in Grantville to stay as close to Kensington as possible. Being right down the hill from the neighborhood, we felt we would still serve it. In the process, we learned what great people we have in Allied Gardens, Del Cerro, Talmadge, Normal Heights and a lot of other nearby communities. Many of our regulars love the vibe that we have going in our current tasting room. In the short term, with our current staff, we will solely produce beer in Grantville while retaining the current setup for special events, using our Kensington location as our main tasting room. In the long-term, we hope to reopen the Grantville tasting room with some permanent hours.
WC: When do you expect to open the new location?
ZK: All of our paperwork is currently being reviewed with the ABC and we are awaiting our posting, which we hope to receive in the next couple of weeks. It is ambitious, but if everything goes as planned, we would like to be open in July. We want to thank everyone who has supported us over the four years it’s taken to get to this point. We look forward to more fun times to come!
Those who’ve sampled beer within its friendly confines know that Home Brewing Company (2911 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park) has a lot going for it. Simple in its construct and easygoing in mood, it effectively accomplishes its mission—exposing Home’s clientele to a plethora of exploratory beer styles and, in the best of cases, sparking an interest in taking up brewing. The latter is a bonus and, while converting imbibers to recreational fermentationists certainly benefits owner George Thornton—Home Brewing is connected to next-door parent business, The Homebrewer—the brewery and tasting room are a product of passion versus capitalist aspirations. And the space feels that way, but Thornton has wanted to change it for some time and that day is drawing nigh.
Come June, construction is scheduled to start on an expansion of the tasting room that’s been in the works for three years. (A lack of funds kept it from happening sooner (so maybe Thornton would benefit from employing a little more capitalism.) The goal of the project is to make Home even more homey, opening up the space and make it evocative of a living room or reading room. Bookshelves stocked with accessible written materials and framed photos will be installed to convey that, but rather than make things too domestic, Thornton will balance out those design elements with the bar and what’s positioned behind it.
Jet-black quartz counter-tops will be installed over the existing bar, and give way to a “shrine-like” tap-wall with a bronze, tinted mirror behind it. The goal is to create a sense of transition between production space, a shrine to process and a living area, all within Home Brewing’s humble, 500-square-foot space. Adding a patio area with a fold-up door opening onto El Cajon Boulevard will expand the space by 150 square feet and free up interior space. With any luck, the project will be completed before summer is up.
Entrepreneurial brewer Mike Hess’ eponymous brewing company has come a long way since its initial days as a nanobrewery tucked away in a labyrinth-like business park. That ever-so-humble starting point may soon have a seven-barrel system installed, while the newer North Park production brewery continues churning out larger batches. And, if all goes as planned, Mike Hess Brewing Company (MHB) will open an 1,800-square-foot satellite tasting room in Ocean Beach by the end of summer.
Located at 4893 Voltaire Street, the new venue will be equipped with 24 taps and an integrated cask beer engine, and offer beers for sale on-site or to-go in “purrowlers.” Known by many in the industry as “crowlers,” they are one-liter sealable receptacles fashioned to look and work like standard beer cans and serve the same purpose as growlers (glass jugs used to transport beer from a brewery for off-site consumption). Unlike growlers, which are incapable of holding beer at acceptable freshness levels for more than a few days, stored under proper conditions, crowlers or purrowlers (a name trademarked by MHB) provides a significantly improved rate of degradation.
Hess and company first toured and began considering the OB site (previously occupied by a dog washing operation) six months ago and were encouraged by the fact it’s by the beach, and nicely positioned at a busy four-way stop at Cable Street and Voltaire in the neighborhood’s up-and-coming north end. The owner of the site received several tenant proposals for the site, but ultimately decided to go with MHB after being impressed during a tour of its North Park tasting room.
Now that the deal is done, MHB will embark on a complete interior build-out, aiming to bring lots of light into the equation, some of which will come via roll-up garage-style doors. Matching the eclectic nature of its new environs, the tasting room will be outfitted with a mix of different seating options, including picnic benches, high-top tables and drink rails. All in all, the expected capacity will be between 75 and 80 (dependent on coding).
Back at ground zero, the Miramar tasting room will likely receive a bit of a face-lift in the semi-near future. Touch ups will bring it more in line with the North Park facility’s aesthetic, though Hess intends to maintain a casual vibe so visitors still feel as if they’re enjoying beers from the comfort of their homebrewing friend’s garage.